Sufferers’ Land – Post 48 – The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

The Wickham Family in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

In 1850, the Wickham household on East Main was bulging at the seams with fourteen people living under its roof. Fredrick and Lucy now had seven children: Charles, age thirteen; Catharine, eleven; William, nine; Fredrick, seven; Mary, five; Sarah, three; and the baby, one-year-old Lucy. Also living in the house were Lucy’s brother Charles Preston, their father Samuel Preston, age seventy-two, and their grandfather Timothy Taylor who was ninety-five.

Jerome Buckinngham

The Wickham home today. Now located on Case Avenue, it is the museum of the Firelands Historical Society

Lucy was a devoted Presbyterian. She insisted that her children attend Sunday school and that they went properly attired. They each carried two handkerchiefs, one a “shower” and the other a “blower.”

Frederick, who had grown up an Episcopalian, never attended church with the rest of his family, but went to the Universalist Church across the street. He could not accept the Presbyterian doctrine of predestination and damnation. As he explained, he “could not condemn one of his children to Hell, and he didn’t believe the Lord could either.” [1]

Henry Buckingham, son of George Buckingham, also lived with the Wickhams and worked at the newspaper. Like Caroline Benedict, Lucy had help taking care of her family, two German women, Julia Berbach, age twenty-two, and Teresa Beecher, age eighteen. [2]

Running such a large household was undoubtedly a great burden for Lucy. In addition to rearing seven children, she had to care for her brother, father, and grandfather. By 1850, her grandfather, “Grandsire” Timothy Taylor, had lived a long eventful life, serving as a soldier in the Revolution, raising a family and moving west at an advanced age to start a new life on the frontier.

In spite of his age, Grandsire Taylor still possessed clear and sound judgment, and his mental faculties were unimpaired. He was universally esteemed by his neighbors and acquaintances for the integrity of his character, for the kindness of his heart, and for the sociability and cheerfulness which enlivened his intercourse with all, during his long and useful life of almost a century.

However, Grandsire Taylor could not live forever. He died in his bed at Lucy’s home on Wednesday, February 26, 1851, at the age of ninety-seven. [3]

The following year there were two more deaths, one each in the Wickham and the Benedict households. Although the death at the Benedict home was expected, the one at the Wickham home was an unforeseen tragedy.

 

 

Footnotes:
[1] These stories about Frederick & Lucy’s religious beliefs are from undated notes by Harriott Wickham Barton in the possession of the author.
[2] Information about Frederick & Lucy’s household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page number 1b
[3] From the obituary of Timothy Taylor in The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XX; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1918; pp. 2196-7.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 47 – The Benedict Family in the 1850’s

Sufferers’ Land

The Benedict Family in the 1850’s

by Dave Barton

The Benedict, Wickham, Preston, Buckingham and Gallup families had not lost anyone to the cholera in 1849. Samuel Preston had contracted it, but survived. They counted their blessings and returned to living their lives.

Business and marriage connected these families. They lived close together along the sandy road on the ridge and often visited each other’s homes.

The Benedicts lived in two households. Platt, seventy-eight years old and Sally, seventy-five, still lived in the brick house they built two years after they arrived in Norwalk. Platt’s occupation is recorded in the Census of 1850 as farmer, although he was involved in much more than farming. [1]

Platt and Sally Benedict

Down the street was the Gallup home, where Hallet lived with three of the Gallup children. He and Clarissa, who now lived with her parents and the other two children, had had a stormy marriage and lived apart off and on for years. In 1836, she moved to her parents’ home with her younger children. In 1843, she received land in her own name from her brother David Mead Benedict at his death, making her financially independent. In 1846, Hallet persuaded Clarissa to return home, but two years later she moved back to Platt and Sally’s house. Although they did not divorce, Hallet and Clarissa would never again live together.

On Seminary Street was the home of Jonas and Caroline Benedict. The census identified Jonas as a farmer with a net worth of $7,000. Fanny, now ten years old, was living at home and attending school, as was a five-year-old girl, Caroline Chapman, probably a niece of Fanny’s stepmother, Caroline Chapman Benedict.

Two other young women were members of the household. Jane Brown was a twenty-three year old schoolteacher boarding with the Benedicts. She probably taught Fanny and Caroline in one of the private schools for females in Norwalk. A young woman from Germany named Catharine Simmons also lived in the Benedict home and helped Caroline with the household chores. [3]

Dave Benedict was not living at home in 1850. Although only seventeen, he had left Norwalk and was living in Sandusky. In April of 1851, he wrote a letter to his friend and cousin, Caley Gallup.

Sandusky City Apr/51

Friend C.

I received your letter and now take the opportunity to answer it. You spoke about selling the lead for a set of Lathe irons. You may do as you please about it, anything that you do will suite (sic) me.

I have not much time to write.

Tell Joe & Hank & Fred that I should like to hear from them.

Write as often as possible.

Give my best respects to all the Boys & Girls, especially the Girls.

Excuse my poor writing, and I will remain your sincere

Friend,

D.D. Benedict

Sandusky [4]

Four months later, Dave received bad news about his father. Jonas died on Tuesday, July 29, 1851 and left his estate to Dave. Now the young man had a chance to further himself.

The following year, Dave used his inheritance to go to Kenyon College. Located near Mount Vernon, Ohio, northeast of Columbus, Kenyon was less than thirty years old when he matriculated. Founded in 1824 by an Episcopal bishop with the help of American and British benefactors, it was the first college established in Ohio. [5]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] Information about Platt & Sally’s household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page number 6b

[2] Information about the Gallup household is from The 1850 Huron County Census, page numbers 6b & 10a. Difficulties with their marital relationship are described in a petition to the Huron County Court of Common Pleas: “Clarissa Gallup vs Hallett Gallup, Divorce,” dated September 1, 1847.

[3] Information about Jonas & Caroline’s household is from Huron, Ohio, 1850 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Norwalk, Ohio; Roll M432, 697; Page 14A; Image: 234.

[4] The original of this letter is in possession of the writer, along with a note of explanation by Harriott Benedict Wickham Barton.

[5] Information about Kenyon College is from the Kenyon College Website, accessed on November 28, 2017.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 44 – Runaway Slaves in Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

Runaway Slaves in Norwalk

by Dave Barton

In early November 1842, bounty hunters captured twelve runaway slaves in nearby Fitchville Township and brought them to Norwalk. The sheriff wouldn’t allow the slaves’ captors to keep them in the county jail, so they took them to the Gauff House and held them there for a week before transporting them back to Kentucky.

The Gauff House was a hostelry across the street from the Norwalk Academy, and had wide verandas on the ground and second floor. The slaves stayed on the upper floor, and Henry occasionally saw them on the veranda as he passed by.

Hallet and Clarissa Gallup lived just west of where the slaves were held. Caleb Gallup, their son, threw apples up to the slaves when they came out onto the front veranda of the house for exercise.

Just before the slaves left, Caleb was throwing apples to them when one of them tossed something into the grass near where he stood. Because guards and other people were nearby, Caleb didn’t react, but took note of where it landed. Later, he told his father, who that night went to the house and found a bowie knife in the grass.

After the slaves went back to their owners, some citizens formed a committee to raise money to buy their freedom. Henry Buckingham and Hallet Gallup were leading members. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much interest, and the idea was dropped.

Henry Buckingham was outraged by what he had seen. Afterwards he said, “Such a thing can never be done again in Norwalk.” He was finally convinced that gradual emancipation was too slow and that something more decisive was necessary to solve the problem. But his ability to be a part of that solution was about to end. [1]

Not long after the runaway slaves left Norwalk for the south, Henry was the victim of an accident that finally took him out of public life, something the financial and emotional blows he had received couldn’t do. A horse kicked him in the head, knocking him unconscious. He never fully recovered. The man who had been such an important part of the town’s life was helpless. [2]

A short time long after the Henry’s accident, the Benedict family received bad news. On Friday, June 16, 1843, Platt and Sally’s oldest son David died in Danbury. Now Jonas and Clarissa were the only surviving Benedict children, and young Dave Benedict was the only grandson left to carry on the family name. Then there was another death. Dave and Fanny Benedict’s sister Mary died at the age of eight, bringing more grief to the family. [3]

Henry Buckingham lingered for two years after his accident with the horse. On Wednesday morning, April 2, 1845, his grandson Henry noticed something was wrong with him. He told his father, who went to the old man’s bed and found his mind wandering. Soon Henry was unconscious, and at eight o’clock the next morning he passed away peacefully. The man who had been the conscience of the village was gone. [4]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] From “The Ohio Fugitive Slave Law,” by G.T. Stewart, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, pp. 75-77.

[2] From “Obituary of Henry Buckingham,” by Levina Lindsley Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888; p. 161

[3] Story of the tragedies that befell the Benedict family in the late 1830s and early 1840s are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 6-7 & 17-18 & “Obituaries – Benedict,” The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume XIV; The Firelands Historical Society; December 1902, pp. 920-921.

[4] “Biographies and Memoirs – Henry Buckingham,” by his grandson, Henry Buckingham, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, p. 125.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 43 – An Abolitionist Comes to Norwalk

Sufferers’ Land

An Abolitionist Comes to Norwalk

by Dave Barton

After the failure of his business, Henry Buckingham had been elected County Treasurer. One evening in the fall of 1842, he came out of the Court House at dusk and noticed a respectable looking middle-aged man standing alone in front of the bank. The man appeared disturbed and uncertain what to do.

Henry greeted him and asked him what he was doing in town. The man told him he was an Abolitionist minister who had come to Norwalk to lecture about the evils of slavery, but had not received a warm welcome. People opposed to abolition threatened him and no hotel would give him a room. Henry immediately invited the minister to stay at his house, and stayed up late with him, debating the slavery question.

The next day, word got out and the village buzzed with gossip and outrage. Some people threatened to drive the “sneaking Abolitionist” out of town. Henry’s son George and his brother John, along with many neighbors, tried to convince him to turn the abolitionist away, but he told them, “This man comes well recommended, he appears to be a gentleman; I don’t quite believe in his doctrine, but he is a human being, made in the image of God. He has committed no crime. He needs food and shelter; and I have invited him to my house. He can stay as long as he likes free of charge and I will protect him!”

And that was that. Even with the sentiment against the anti-slavery movement in Norwalk, the man wasn’t molested and stayed at the Buckingham home until he finished his business in the village. [1]

Still, Henry was not an out and out abolitionist. However, later that fall, soon after the abolitionist minister left his home, an incident occurred that finally forced him to change his stance.

 

 

Footnote:

[1] “The Ohio Fugitive Slave Law,” by G.T. Stewart, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, pp. 75-77.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 42 – Henry Buckingham and the Underground Railroad

Sufferers’ Land

Henry Buckingham and the Underground Railroad

by Dave Barton

In 1842, Henry Buckingham still had not recovered financially from the loss of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company. Looking for a steady source of income, he ran for and was elected Treasurer of Huron County, a position he had held when he first came to Norwalk.

Henry continued to be highly regarded in the community. People liked and respected him for being of a good nature, courteous and kind, even if they did not always agree with him. One issue where he departed from most of his fellow citizens was slavery – specifically the problem of runaway slaves who passed through the Firelands on their way to freedom in Canada.

Illustration From Uncle Tom's Cabin

An Illustration from Uncle Tom’s Cabin: Wikimedia Commons

By this time, slavery had polarized the United States. Ohio was a microcosm of the divide that split the nation. In southern Ohio, where many settlers had come from Virginia and Kentucky, the sentiment was decidedly pro-slavery. In 1837, a mob destroyed the office of an abolition newspaper in Cincinnati and killed the editor. [1]

In contrast, the Western Reserve, to include the Firelands, was more inclined to be anti-slavery due to the preponderance of settlers from New England. However, even here, the sentiment was not for openly helping fugitive slaves.

After the Civil War, a Sandusky lawyer who openly fought for the release of captured runaway slaves during the 1840s and 1850s would write about this issue.

 

An intelligent understanding of the question has required me to point out the unpopularity of anti-slavery movements, and compare the prevailing sentiments of those days with that which succeeded later. Thus will you also see why such an institution as the “Underground Railroad” was introduced. For in the light of the present day it seems almost impossible that it should have been necessary to resort to such secret measures to help a poor bondman to freedom in this free State of Ohio, and especially across these Firelands, settled as they were with a liberty-loving people. But slavery was not then regarded as it was afterwards; slaves were looked upon as the rightful property of their owners, and it was incumbent on law-abiding citizens to return them rather than aid them to escape. While people perhaps would not actively oppose the attempt of these fugitives to escape, they did not openly espouse their cause, and the popular feeling at this time may safely be said to have been unfavorable to aid being afforded them to escape. [2]

Many heated debates took place around dinner tables in Norwalk, to include the Benedict, Gallup, Wickham, and Buckingham households. Although some members of these families took the antislavery position — Hallet Gallup and Henry Buckingham for instance — even they were not in favor of immediate emancipation or openly providing assistance for runaway slaves. They valued property rights and were torn between recognition of the rights of slaveholders to their property and the rights of all human beings to be free.

However, in spite what he said in public, one of the earliest stops on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves in Norwalk was the home of Henry Buckingham. His grandson later wrote: I remember well the feeling of the majority of the people towards Abolitionists in the early days, for my grandfather was one of the leading anti-slavery men of Ohio. He was a Henry Clay emancipationist, differing from the doctrines taught by Garrison. That he was an active “director” in the Underground Railroad, there is no question, though he never admitted it. When remonstrated with by his friends about it, he would say: “When a human being comes to my house whether at noon or midnight, and asks for something to eat, I give it to him; and I do not inquire whether he is white or black, bond or free; nor do I ask him if he is going to Canada or Kentucky. Every human being is entitled to something to eat and aid when in distress, where no crime has been committed. [3]

For years, Henry Buckingham was reluctant to speak openly of his convictions. However, in 1842, two events occurred that caused him to act, even if to do so risked the censure of the community.

 

 

Footnote:

[1] From “The Underground Railroad of the Firelands,” by Hon. Rush R. Sloane, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, p. 30.

[2] This quote is from “The Underground Railroad of the Firelands,” by Hon. Rush R. Sloane, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, p. 32.

[3] This quote is from “The Ohio Fugitive Slave Law,” by G.T. Stewart, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888, pp. 75-77.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 40 – Disappointment and Despair

Sufferers’ Land

Disappointment and Despair

by Dave Barton

Platt Benedict and Henry Buckingham founded The Norwalk Manufacturing Company in 1829, but it was never a great success. By the end of the 1830s, the company’s machinery was obsolete and it had lost business to its competition. Platt and Henry needed to do something to save their company.

Late in 1837, they decided to upgrade the paper-making machinery in the plant. Over the next year, they bought and installed new machines to make the operation more efficient. Now the work was almost complete and the partners were anxious to get the plant back in operation. A little over a month after Henry’s granddaughter Fanny Benedict was born, the factory was ready to go. They finished installation on Saturday, September 21, and planned to re-start the plant on Monday. Henry went to bed that night full of anticipation.

Then disaster struck.

At two o’cloBuilding Fireck Sunday morning, Henry woke to cries of alarm. A fire at the factory! Volunteers hustled the water-pumper out of its barn and rushed to the site. They were too late. Flames had engulfed the building and soon it burned to the ground. [1]

The loss of his factory was a crushing blow to Henry. However, his keen disappointment at the ruin of his business was soon followed by terrible grief from a more serious and personal loss.

On Wednesday, October 9, only a few weeks after the disaster at The Norwalk Manufacturing Company, his wife Harriet died. Perhaps the specter of financial ruin was too much for her to take. No matter what the cause of her death, she was gone. Henry had to face the future without his life partner.

More tragedy followed. The next year, on Wednesday, March 4, Henry’s daughter Fanny passed away. The death of his daughter so soon after the loss of his wife and business were a terrible blow, from which he never fully recovered. [2]

 

 

Footnotes:

[1] The account of the destruction of the Norwalk Manufacturing Company is from “Biographies and Memories”, The Firelands Pioneer, New Series, Volume V; The Firelands Historical Society; July 1888; p. 122.

[2] Record of the deaths of Henry Buckingham’s wife and daughter are from the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (Unpublished) by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, p. 17 & p. 21.

 

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Sufferers’ Land – Post 39 – High Hopes for a Bright Future

Sufferers’ Land

High Hopes for a Bright Future

by Dave Barton

For Henry Buckingham, August 1839 was a time of promise and anticipation. He looked forward to again becoming a grandfather, and to finally achieving success in business.

Since coming to Norwalk almost twenty years before, Henry had become a respected member of the community. For many years, he was Treasurer of Huron County. He was also an active member of the Presbyterian Church and the Masons and a leader of the American Bible Association.

Norwalk Ohio 1846

Henry and Harriet Buckingham lived in a house on East Main Street with their son George and his family. Henry’s brother John Buckingham lived on a farm outside the village. Their daughter Fanny was married to Jonas Benedict, son of the most prominent man in Norwalk, Platt Benedict. She was pregnant and due to deliver any day. This birth, although looked for with hope, was also a cause of concern.

Jonas and Fanny had not always had good fortune when it came to children. Their first child, Platt, named for Jonas’s father, burned to death from an accident at the age of two. Their second son, young Dave Benedict, about to turn six, was a bright and healthy boy. However, their third child, a daughter named Mary Starr Benedict, had been the victim of a terrible accident that crippled her. She was born healthy, but had fallen and broke her back while an infant. Now she walked bent over, supporting her upper body with her hands on her knees.

In late August, Fanny gave birth to a baby girl, which she and Jonas named after her — Fanny Boughton Benedict. [1] The Buckingham’s were happy to see this new arrival, and hoped that the couple’s luck had changed. Henry perhaps saw this birth as a good omen, promising success to a business venture that he expected would make his fortune at last.

Henry had not achieved all he had hoped for when he arrived in the village. Although he had started many ventures, none had been a great success. He had not rebuilt the fortune he had lost in Pennsylvania because of the War of 1812. Now he felt his luck was about to change. His hope for the future rested on the reopening of a company that had so far been a disappointment — The Norwalk Manufacturing Company.

 

 

Footnote:

[1] From the Family History: Wickham, Benedict, Preston & Deaver, (unpublished), by Agnes and Harriott Wickham, edited by Dave Barton, 2006, pp. 17-18.

Image of 1846 Norwalk is from Howe, Henry (1907). Historical Collections of Ohio, The Ohio Centennial Edition. 2. The State of Ohio. , page 229. As treasurer, Henry Buckingham would have worked in the Courthouse and his home would have been down the street to the east (left of the courthouse).

 

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